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A Priceless Experience

By Jenny Ernst

My time with Habitat Jordan has been incredible. Words cannot express the richness of experiences I have had here. It all started during the summer of 2004. I was a Habitat for Humanity Fellow at Sterling College in Sterling, KS. To fulfill the requirements of this program, I decided to complete my field experience hours at Jordan’s national office in Amman. I enjoyed my field experience so much that I returned the following summer to begin a year long internship.

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Jenny with a group of young women and children who came to the build

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Jenny at a building site in Jordan

What made me return? I am passionate about development work, but I am also highly interested in diplomacy and breaking down the barriers that exist between nations, religions and people groups. Habitat Jordan has a unique role in the Middle East that reaches far beyond providing families in need with adequate housing. We are actively bringing people together – an action that is desperately needed in our world today. The gap between East and West lessens as westerners attend our Volunteer Work Camps and walk away with positively transformed perspectives on the Arab world. A gap between religions is bridged as Christians and Muslims work side by side to accomplish common goals. We are building common ground between groups, faiths and regions that are generally separated by misconceptions and misunderstandings. It is a beautiful and encouraging process to witness.

My Habitat experience has certainly diminished my own misconceptions of the Middle East. I am so thankful to have had this eye-opening opportunity. Every time I visit one of our communities, I walk away with a warm heart. It is so amazing to be welcomed into the homes and lives of the families we build with. The friendships made bring more joy to my heart than words can express.

In April we hosted a Volunteer Work Camp from an all women’s college in Sharjah, United Arab Emirates. This was the first women’s build the Middle East has seen. In the city of Amman, it is common for women to work outside of the home, but in the conservative Muslim communities in which we build, women generally stick to domestic work. It was beautiful to watch as the young women proved that women can do anything men can do. Through this process, the women gained a certain confidence that they had not know before. I would not have had this unique experience if I would have remained in the United States after graduation.

I guess I just can’t get enough of Habitat Jordan because I am coming back! I will be returning in the fall to assist with Resource Development and Communications. In addition to my RD&C responsibilities, I will be working with other members of our team to develop a Service Learning program - bringing students into our communities to participate in Volunteer Work Camps. The lessons the youth take away from their service experiences are invaluable. The lessons we receive from the youth help to shape and mold our program. Hopefully Service Learning is something that will impact hearts and lives for years to come. I anticipate that the participants of our program will enjoy their service experience so much that they will be driven to continue to serve throughout their lives.

As I said, my time with Habitat Jordan has been incredible ~ priceless, really. In the next year, I hope to gain skills, knowledge, and understanding that will enable me to better serve a world in need. I believe wholeheartedly in the mission of Habitat for Humanity and I am honored to be a part of this organization.